Hollensen, Kotler and Opresnik in their book Social Media Marketing explain that a social media marketing plan is the summary of everything the company plan to do in social marketing and hope to achieve for the business using social networks. This plan should comprise an audit of where the customers are today, goals for where you want them to be soon, and all the social media tools that the company wants to use to get there.
In general, the more specific the company can get with their plan, the more effective they will be in the plan’s implementation. It is important to keep it concise. The plan will guide the company’s actions, but it will also be a measure by which to determine whether the company is succeeding or failing. Figure 1.1 illustrates the several stages that should be gone through to arrive at a social media marketing plan (Gilmore et al., 2001; Day, 2002).
Figure 1.1: The stages of building a social media marketing plan
Step 1: Create SM marketing objectives
The first step to any social media marketing strategy is to establish the objectives and goals that the company hope to achieve. Having these objectives also allows the company to quickly react when social marketing media campaigns are not meeting the company’s expectations. Without objectives, the company has no means of evaluating success or proving their social media Return on Investment (ROI). These goals should be aligned with the broader marketing strategy, so that the social media efforts drive toward the business objectives. If the social media marketing plan is shown to support the overall business objective, the company is more likely to get executive and employee buy-in and investment. The company should try to go beyond popular metrics such as Retweets and Likes. Focus should be more on advanced metrics such as number of leads generated, web referrals, and conversion rate. The company should also use the SMART framework when setting their objectives:
- Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
- Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
- Achievable – Agreed and aligned with corporate goals.
- Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
- Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.
Example: ‘In Social Publishing we will share photos that communicate our company culture. We will do this by posting a total of ten photos a week on any of the photo sharing social media sites. This target for each week is at least in total 100 likes and 30 comments.’
A simple way to start the social media marketing plan is by writing down at least three social media objectives.
Step 2: Conduct a social media audit (where are we today?)
Prior to creating your social media marketing plan, the company needs to assess their current social media use and how it is working. This means figuring out who is currently connecting with the company and its brand via social media, which social media sites the company target market uses, and how the social media presence compares to the competitions. For this purpose, the following social media audit template can be used:
|Presence on social media platform||URL||Internal responsible for maintaining social media||Social media mission||Current number of followers||Main competitor’s number of followers|
Once the audit is conducted the company should have a clear picture of every social media platform representing the business, who runs or controls them, and what purpose they serve. This audit should be maintained regularly, especially as the company scale up their business.
It should also be evident which social media platforms (accounts) need to be updated and which need to be deleted altogether. If the audit uncovers for example a fake branded Twitter profile, it should be reported. Reporting fake accounts will help ensure that people searching for the company online only connect with the accounts that are managed by the company itself.
As part of the social media audit the company may also want to create mission statement for each social media platform (network). These one-sentence declarations will help to focus on a very specific objective for Instagram, Facebook, or any other social media network. They will guide the actions and help guiding back on track if the efforts begin to lag.
Example of Mission statement for presence on the Snapchat platform: ‘we will use Snapchat to share the CSR side of our company and connect with younger prospect customer among 15-40 years old.’
The company should be able to determine the purpose of every social media platform it has, for example Snapchat. If it cannot determine the mission for each social media platform, the platform & profile should probably be deleted.
Before it is possible to determine which social platforms are right for the business, the company should find out who the audience is for each platform and what they want. The company should know which tools to use to gather demographic and behavioural data, and how to target the customers it wants.
Step 3: Choose the most relevant social media platforms to work with
Once you’ve finished with your social media audit, it is time to choose the online presence. Choose which networks best meet the company’s social media missions and objectives. If there is not already a social media profile on each network/platform the company focuses on, it should build them from the ground up with the broader mission and audience in mind. Each social network has a unique audience and should be treated differently. If the company has some existing platforms, it is time to update and refine them to get the best possible results.
Optimizing profiles for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can help to generate more web traffic to the company’s online social media platforms. Cross-promoting social platforms can extend the reach of content. In general, social media profiles should be filled out completely, and images and text should be optimized for the social network in question.
Step 4: Get social media inspiration from Industry leaders, competitors and key opinion leader in the online community
If the company is not sure what kinds of content and information will get the most engagement, then the company, for inspiration, can look to what others in the industry are sharing. The company can also use social media listening to see how it can distinguish itself from competitors and appeal to an audience it might be missing.
Opinion leaders among consumers (Influencers) can also offer social media inspiration, not only through the content that they share but in the way that they phrase their messages. The company can try and see how its target audience writes Tweets, and it could strive to write in a similar style. It can also learn their habits – when they share and why – and use that as a basis for the social media marketing plan.
A final source of social media inspiration is industry leaders. There are giants who do an incredible job of social media marketing, from Red Bull and Taco Bell to Turkish Airlines. Companies in every industry imaginable have managed to distinguish themselves through advanced social media strategies.
The company can follow industry leaders and see if they have shared any social media advice or insight elsewhere on the web.
Step 5: Create a content and time plan for the company’s social media efforts
The social media marketing plan should include a content marketing plan, comprised of strategies for content creation, as well as an editorial calendar (time plan) for when the content should be shown online. Having great content to share and the right timing will be essential to succeeding at social media marketing.
The content marketing plan should answer the following questions:
- What types of content the company intends to post and promote on social media?
- Who will create the content?
- How often will the company post content?
- What is the target audience for each type of content?
- How you the company promote the content?
The editorial calendar lists the dates and times the company intends to publish blogs, Instagram and Facebook posts Tweets, and other content that is planned to use during the social campaigns.
The company can create the calendar and then schedule their messaging in advance rather than updating constantly throughout the day. This gives it the opportunity to work hard on the language and format of these messages rather than writing them on the fly whenever company employees have time. The company should make sure that the content reflects the mission statement that are assigned to each social media profile/platform. If the purpose of the LinkedIn account is to generate leads, the company should make sure that it is sharing enough lead generation content. The company can establish a content matrix that defines what share of the social media platform is allocated to different types of post. For example;
- 30 percent of content will try to get potential visitors to actually visit the company’s social media platform.
- 30 percent of content will support enterprise profit objectives in general (lead generation, selling, cross-selling, etc)
- 20 percent of content will try drive back visitors to your blog (content supporting loyal visitors)
- 20 percent of content will be about the company’s HR, CSR and culture
If the company is unsure of how to allocate their resources, a safe bet is to follow this rule:
- One-third of the company’s social content promotes its business, converts visitor, and generates profit
- One-third of the social content should share ideas and stories from thought leaders in the industry or similar businesses
- One-third of the social content should be personal interactions with your audience (e.g blogging)
Step 6: Test, evaluate and adjust your plan
To find out what adjustments need to be made to your social media marketing strategy, you should constantly be testing. Build testing capabilities into every action you take on social networks. For example, you could track the number of clicks your links get on a particular platform using URL shorteners. Furthermore, it is possible to measure track page visits driven by social media with Google Analytics.
Record and analyse your successes and failures, and then adjust your social media marketing plan in response.
Surveys are also a great way to gauge success – online and offline. The company can ask their social media followers, email list, and website visitors how they are doing on social media. This direct approach is often very effective. Then ask your offline customers if social media had a role in their purchasing. This insight might prove invaluable when you look for areas to improve.
The most important thing to understand about the social media marketing plan is that it should be constantly changing. As new networks emerge, the company may want to add them to their plan. As the company is attaining missions and objectives for each social media platform, if will need to set new targets. Unexpected challenges will arise that is needed to address. As the company is scaling up its business, it might need to add new roles or grow the social presence for different product or regions.
The company should rewrite its social media marketing plan to reflect its latest insights, and make sure that the team is aware of what has been updated.